Awards - Discs of the Year 2016 - our top 10

by Chris O'Reilly. 2nd December 2016

There've been some tough decisions (though mercifully few arguments!), but we've finally settled on our Top 10 Discs of 2016 - the recordings which really made us listen with fresh ears to works we thought we already knew, or provided compelling advocacy for new discoveries!

We'll be despatching physical awards to all our winners over the next few days, so look out for a photo-gallery in the not-too-distant future…

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Our Top 10 Discs of the Year

Berio: Sinfonia & Mahler/Berio: Frühe Lieder

Matthias Goerne (baritone), Synergy Vocals, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Josep Pons

'The vocal parts [in Sinfonia] require not only singing but also speaking, whispering, chattering, and shouting....and the performance here is nothing short of staggering at every turn....[Goerne] seems to be several singers rolled into one: the richest bass notes at the bottom of his range blend effortlessly into a beautifully lyrical high register.' (James Longstaffe)

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Copland: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 - Ballets

BBC Philharmonic, John Wilson

'Wilson's lifelong immersion in the sound-world of 30s and 40s American music is evident from the off...What struck me most of all about the disc as a whole was the delicacy and subtlety, the infinite varieties of light and shade, that Wilson conjures from Copland’s scores: every single phrase of all the works presented here feels truly balletic, and the music never stops dancing'. (Katherine Cooper)

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Dvořák & Schumann: Piano Concertos

Stephen Hough (piano), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons

'Hough's passagework is a model of clarity, never overpedalled, and you can really hear all of the intricacies and rhythmic quirks of Dvořák's writing....The contribution from the CBSO should in no way be underestimated either...I constantly felt that everyone involved had exactly the same focus and artistic goals; every single bar feels just right in terms of balance and intent'. (James Longstaffe)

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Lotti: Crucifixus

The Syred Consort & Orchestra of St Paul’s, Ben Palmer

'The Crucifixus really works, and hearing it as it was intended to be performed casts it in a totally different light...This is clearly a labour of love for Palmer and his musicians...I, for one, have certainly been won over - the superb musicianship on display shows Lotti in the best possible light'. (David Smith)

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Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana & Leoncavallo: Pagliacci (DVD)

Jonas Kaufmann (Turiddu/Canio), Liudmyla Monastyrska (Santuzza), Ambrogio Maestri (Alfio), Maria Agresta (Nedda), Dimitri Platanias (Tonio); Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann, Philipp Stölzl (dir.)

'Thielemann gives the music plenty of space, as well as elegance and delicacy when required...[Stölzl’s] innovative use of split staging and close-ups of characters who are ‘off-stage’ always enhances the main action rather than being a distraction from it...I challenge anyone’s eyes not to prickle at Kaufmann’s visceral ‘Vesti la giubba’, which sounds wrenched from the guts in the very best way.' (Katherine Cooper)

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Mozart: Don Giovanni

Dimitris Tiliakos (Giovanni), Vito Priante (Leporello), Myrtò Papatanasiu (Anna), Kenneth Tarver (Ottavio), Karina Gauvin (Elvira); MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis

'Currentzis’s Giovanni is defiantly red in tooth and claw: the murder of the Commendatore has never sounded so brutal, nor his return so terrifying, and there’s an ever-present sense (particularly in the party scenes) that everything’s on the verge of spinning completely out of control. The marvel is that it never does'. (Katherine Cooper)

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Revive: Dramatic Mezzo Arias

Elīna Garanča (mezzo), Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Roberto Abbado

'Each of these complex and diverse women spring to life fully formed and meticulously differentiated, and you never get the sense that she’s using every item in her new technical tool-box for its own sake...anyone who’s previously found Garanča’s habitual poise a little too chilly in dramatic repertoire might revise their opinion'. (Katherine Cooper)

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Sibelius: Symphonies Nos 3, 6 & 7

Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä

'From the moment that Symphony No. 3 started, I was grabbed by the string articulation and phrasing...This attention to detail is present throughout the symphony...Even if you already own Vänskä’s earlier cycle with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, I think that these new performances are simply unmissable. An outstanding achievement in every way'. (James Longstaffe)

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Tchaikovsky & Sibelius Violin Concertos

Lisa Batiashvili (violin), Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim

'I had already decided that this recording was pretty special by the end of the first three bars: the way that Barenboim shapes the first phrase from the orchestral violins, delicate and tender, is just exquisite...Barenboim describes how Batiashvili's playing is full of emotion whilst avoiding sentimentality, and speaks straight to the heart: I couldn't agree more'. (James Longstaffe)

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Transcendental: Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

'Even in the many passages where the printed page is almost entirely black, you hear every detail, every unexpected accent, every beautifully-sculpted melodic line...What’s striking about this collection is the tangible absence of egoism in the playing...the focus is squarely on the breathtaking complexity of the music itself rather than the skill and mechanics involved in bringing it to life'. (Katherine Cooper)

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